Since the formation of Am Yisrael, different people took different paths to reach their full potential.
Avraham Avinu & Sara Imeinu upheld the ideal partnership in serving Hashem.
They shared different roles due to gender, but also different paths due to very different personalities.
Yet they used their differences to bind together, much like interlocking puzzle pieces, whose forms look so different, yet could never bind together if they each held the same shape.
Meaning, the sea split into 12 passageways, and not one large passageway.
Yet they all arrived at the same destination.
Later in Eretz Yisrael, each Tribe served Hashem according to each one's unique Tribal service:
- Asher cultivated olive trees.
- Zevulun tended to the Nation's maritime necessities.
- Levi dedicated themselves to the service of the Mishkan and later the Beit HaMikdash.
- Yissachar devoted themselves solely to learning Torah. (The other Tribes also carved out time for Torah learning, but Yissachar managed to learn Torah exclusively because Zevulun supported them financially.)
And so on.
They didn't even share the same Hebrew pronunciation because Shevet (the Tribe of) Ephraim pronounced "sh" as "s."
As Rav Avigdor Miller detailed it here https://torasavigdor.org/parshas-beshalach-learning-to-love-all-types-of-jews/:
Reuven was very different than Dan and Zevulun.
Naftali, Levi, Shimon; they all looked different.
They even made sure their begadim [clothes] were different, and they spoke a different language of lashon hakodesh [Hebrew].
Their dialect was different.
They lived separately, and they had different expressions.
Each shevet developed different kinds of melitzos [expressions of speech] and language, different malbushim [clothing styles] and minhagim [customs].
The Shoftim also came from a variety of Tribes.
And within each Tribe existed different families of different sizes and varying levels of accomplishments.
For example, the lineage of David Hamelech (Mashiach ben David) lies within the Tribe of Yehudah.
But not every Yehudi is part of that particular line—that of David HaMelech.
And so on.
A Sample of Different Paths All Leading to the Same Destination
Now we find different streams of Torah Judaism to quench our soul's thirst, each according to our unique soul-need.
Rav Itamar Schwartz delineated some of those streams here:
Here are some ways to reveal your soul—meaning, to get in touch with your soul and achieve its potential:
Crying to Hashem from the depths of your heart that you seek to find both yourself & your Creator.
Davening & crying out to Hashem opens your heart by ripping off the blockage covering the heart.
This reveals the soul in the heart, which causes the soul to be revealed in the mind/intellect.
This process purifies one's imagination & intellect, enabling them to recognize the Creator.
Deep reflection about the greatness of Hashem & Godly matters.
Ramchal (Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto of Mesillat Yesharim) & Shiurei Daas by Yosef Leib Bloch (Telz Mussar)
Deep reflection on the profound ways Hashem runs the universe.
Slabodka Mussar (particularly the Alter of Slabodka)
Deep reflection about the potential greatness inherent in Mankind, which leads to a healthy self-knowledge of the greatness achievable by each person, which awakens one's soul.
Kelm Mussar (particularly Rav Yerucham Levovitz, and later Rav Eliyahu Dessler)
Deep intellectual reflection about the downfalls and evils to which a person can fall when he doesn’t work on his middos—combined with deep reflection about matters related to fear of Heaven.
The General Mussar Movement of Rav Yisroel Salant
Similar to Breslov, Rav Yisroel Salant believed a person needs more than just intellectual reflection to reveal his soul.
Just as Rebbe Nachman of Breslov encouraged a person to focus on & repeat "Ribbono shel Olam" (Master of the World), the Mussar approach repeats a statement of Chazal until he comes to awaken his soul to the truths inherent in that statement.
(Rav Avigdor Miller, who learned in Slabodka, described how he & his fellows did this with statements from Mesillat Yesharim: https://torasavigdor.org/rav-avigdor-miller-on-slabodka-mussar/)
Rav Schwartz notes the Mussar approach differs from Breslov where Breslov seeks to awaken the soul via intense crying out to Hashem in prayer.
In contrast, Mussar seeks to awaken his heart to work on himself.
(As far as I can tell, both seek to awaken the heart, but Breslov does so from the heart to the mind while Mussar does so from the mind to heart.)
The Piaseczner Rav, author of Aish Kodesh
Utilize the power of imagination—for example, picture yourself singing with the angels or serving in the Beit HaMikdash
As you read through the above, probably at least one or two resonated with you.
Likely, it's your soul popping up and saying, "Yeah, that one!"
Also, I've known people who went through different approaches before settling on one.
Finally, the above represent just a sample of approaches to revealing your soul.
Other approaches exist!
See here too: https://question.bilvavi.net/blog/2020/03/02/litvaks-chassidim-sefardim/
And also this: https://torasavigdor.org/rav-avigdor-miller-on-learning-sifrei-chasidus-or-sifrei-mussar/
A Closer Look at the Branches of Mussar
- Kelm (the Alter of Kelm Rav Yerucham Levovitz)
- Slabodka (the Alter of Slabodka Rav Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel)
- Novardok (the Alter of Novardok Rav Yosef Yoizl Horowitz)
Slabodka focuses on the concept of gadlut ha'adam—the inherent greatness in every human being.
A person must seek to fulfill his or her potential greatness.
Novardok focuses on shiflut—the innate humble state & weakness of a human being in contrast to the inherent greatness of the Jewish soul.
A person must uproot every smidgen of pride or arrogance to allow the holy soul to shine through.
Kelm focuses on achieving menuchat hanefesh (inner peace at the soul level) as a way to achieving wisdom, clarity, and the highest levels of serving Hashem—to be a human being rather than a human "doing."
The Kelm method: After a person learns a certain concept, he should reflect: “What did I think before I saw this, and what is new to me now that I have learned this?”
One should clarify to himself:
- what exactly he didn’t know before he learned what he has learned.
- what exactly he has discovered in his learning.
All methods of Mussar led to happy, calm, fulfilled people who were humble, kind, compassionate, and wise.
We All Reach the Same Destination.
Sometimes, a path that worked well for us at one stage of life forks out into a different path that serves our soul needs in another stage of life.
We also see why it's so important to refrain from discouraging another legitimate path or pressuring others to follow our prized path.
We cannot interfere with another's journey of the soul.
All authentic Torah paths lead to the same destination.
https://bilvavi.net/english/nefesh-hachayim-gate-1-006-man-above (Slabodka & Novardok)
https://bilvavi.net/english/bilvavi-part-5-317-revealing-your-soul (all the above)